Please welcome debut author Averil Dean to the blog! Averil’s new novel, ALICE CLOSE YOUR EYES, is out tomorrow, and Averil kindly answered a few of my questions about the book, and much more!
Will you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I have three kids, one husband (at a time), a muttlet named Izzy and a tendency to leave my clean laundry all over the bed. I grew up in Las Vegas but always dreamed of life in the Pacific Northwest, which is where we moved about 18 months ago. As I write this, I’m looking out my front window at a clutch of pine trees and snowy rooftops, all the chimneys huffing into a sky full of clouds. Bliss.
I haven’t always wanted to be a writer. I actually came to it late in life after several failed attempts at other careers. For over a decade I built a photography business—work I dearly loved—but I just don’t have the savvy to make a living with my camera and eventually found myself plateauing creatively. In January 2010, on what was little more than an idea and a whim, I started writing. That year I completed my first three books, which have thankfully disappeared into the ether, and in 2011 I wrote Alice.
I’m still a novice and have a lot to learn about writing. But it feels good to have found some early success and to have built a circle of friends who are willing to teach me. I wouldn’t be writing if not for them.
Will you give us a little teaser about your new book, ALICE CLOSE YOUR EYES?
It’s a dark psychological thriller about Alice Croft, a young woman who has been following a man named Jack Calabrese. Her plan is to seduce him and convince him to help her get revenge on a mutual enemy. But Jack is more dangerous than she imagined. As she struggles to keep her plan on track, Alice begins to see just how deep Jack’s secrets run—and how deadly they could be.
How did you celebrate when you found out it would be published?
By reading my agent’s emails about 462 times.
What inspired you to write Alice Close Your Eyes?
Well, I had written those first books and some erotic short stories, but was struggling to find my way as a writer. A friend suggested I try my hand at a thriller, marrying the sexy stuff I was writing with a more suspenseful story.
In trying to come up with a starting point, I came across an English neo-noir film called Following. Very low-budget, shot in black-and-white, about a guy who follows strangers and eventually breaks into their homes, just to see what makes them tick. I was hooked by this idea and thought it would be a sexy, deviant thing for a couple to do. The rest of the story grew around the question of why Alice would choose to follow Jack, why they both would crave this sort of voyeurism.
Why do you think readers might connect with Alice Croft?
I’m not sure they’ll connect with her so much as be sort of darkly fascinated. The word that comes up again and again in reviews is ‘intense.’ Alice is intense. She’s living on the edge, she’s dangerous and in danger. I don’t expect readers to fall in love because she’s such an anti-hero. But I think they’ll worry about her.
What do you enjoy most about writing thrillers?
They suit my natural pace as a reader. I prefer tight stories to big, sweeping novels, and I like to reach the end of a book with questions in my mind. I enjoy the process of deciding what pieces to leave out of the story for the reader to fill in. It’s like crocheting a piece of lace: I weave the threads and provide the structure, but the reader is free to look for patterns in the empty spaces. It’s a collaboration.
What are a few of your favorite books?
I love quiet, introspective books, anything with some twisty bit of psychology. Noir is my favorite genre—if you can call it a genre—and I have several volumes from the Akashic series, among others. But my all-time favorite is a book called Absent in the Spring by Agatha Christie, one of six she wrote under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. It’s not one of her mysteries, but an insightful, tightly knit literary novel that I come back to again and again. Same for Breath by Tim Winton, a book I read a couple of years ago and probably four times since. For sheer joy of language, I adore Nabokov, Pablo Neruda, and anything at all by Joyce Carol Oates. For kick-ass stories, the King.
What are you reading now, and what do plan to read next?
I’m reading Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. Next up? I’m not sure. I’ve got a teetering stack of books to be read: Survivor, Empire Falls, These Things Hidden, Bel Canto, Heat… It will depend on what I’m in the mood for when I get there.
What’s been one of your favorite books of 2013?
One? Just one? It was a banner year as far as I’m concerned. But I suppose I’ll confine myself to The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison. What a delicious little creeper of a book.
What’s one piece of advice that you would give to aspiring writers?
The story and the writing have to make absolute sense to you. Every word, every action, every arc, every description has to be perfectly clear in your mind, and worked out to be as clear as possible on the page. Any part of the story that feels untrue or that can’t be explained by you to yourself has to go.
When you’re not working on your next project, how do you like to spend your free time?
I’m a thrift-store junkie. Last week I scored two scarves and this crazy fedora made of alpaca wool. I’m currently on the lookout for a pair of red cowboy boots. (Size 7…come to mama…)
What’s next for you?
I’ve just submitted the draft for my next book (book two of the deal with Harlequin MIRA). It’s the story of a triple murder in an isolated ski town, the implosion of a complicated love triangle. The book starts with the murders and works back through the characters’ tangled relationships to discover where it all went wrong. Like Alice Close Your Eyes, it’s a sexy, noir-ish book, but more mystery than thriller this time.
Thank you so much for having me. I hope you’ll join us on the blog tomorrow evening as we launch the book with a New Year’s Eve game of Truth or Dare. Drunken mayhem—with prizes!
About ALICE CLOSE YOUR EYES:
With haunting prose and deft psychological insight, Averil Dean spins a chilling story that explores the dark corners of OBSESSION—LOVE, PAIN AND REVENGE.
Ten years ago, someone ruined Alice Croft’s life. Now she has a chance to right that wrong and she thinks she’s found the perfect man to carry out her plan.
After watching him for weeks, she breaks into Jack Calabrese’s house to collect the evidence that will confirm her hopes. When Jack comes home unexpectedly, Alice hides in the closet, fearing for her life. But upon finding her, Jack is strangely calm, solicitous… and intrigued.
That night is the start of a dark and intense attraction, and soon Alice finds herself drawn into a labyrinth of terrifying surrender to a man who is more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. As their relationship spirals toward a breaking point, Alice starts to see just how deep Jack’s secrets run—and how deadly they could be.